Coprinopsis picacea: The Ultimate Mushroom Guide
About The Coprinopsis picacea Mushroom
Coprinopsis picacea is a species of fungus in the family Psathyrellaceae. The cap is initially egg-shaped, reaching a width of 7 cm. Later it opens up and takes on a bell shape that is up to 8 cm wide. The cap is serrated and colored white on very young mushrooms. It breaks open with increasing age so that the beige to dark brown background emerges. Remnants of the white, grayish to cream-colored velum remain on the cap as flakes, giving the impression of woodpecker or magpie plumage. The species is inedible and causes digestive upset.
This mushroom is common in Europe and Australia. In Europe, the area extends from Great Britain and France in the west to Poland, Hungary and Romania in the east and south to Spain and the Balearic Islands, Italy and Greece and to Germany and Denmark in the north.
The species can sometimes be confused with the edible Coprinus comatus.
Other names: Magpie Inkcap.
Coprinopsis picacea Identification
At maturity, the caps of Coprinopsis picacea are 3 to 7cm across and 7 to 12cm tall; initially egg-shaped, becoming bell-shaped, the margins turning outwards before blackening and deliquescing from the rim; very dark grey-brown glossy background covered with silvery-white fibrils that separate into patches as the cap expands.
The young cap shown here has not yet expanded fully, and at this stage, it could be mistaken for a Shaggy Inkcap, Coprinus comatus.
Adnate or free, the gills of the Magpie Inkcap are crowded, white, turning reddish and then black before deliquescing.
10 to 20cm long and 0.7 to 1.5cm diameter, the surface of the stem of the Magpie Inkcap, Coprinopsis picacea, is white and floccose; its stem base is often slightly bulbous.
Ellipsoidal, smooth, 13-19 x 9-12µm; with a central germ pore.
Odor and Taste
Habitat & Ecological Role
Generally as solitary specimens or well-spaced in small groups, Magpie Inkcaps occur most often in deciduous woodland, particularly under Beech trees and less frequently under oaks. They are rare finds in Britain and Ireland, where they are mainly restricted to alkaline areas. Occasionally I find them also in damp, well-shaded grassland where deciduous hardwood debris has collected at the edge of a floodplain.
Coprinopsis picacea Taxonomy & Etymology
In 1785 Jean Baptiste Francois Pierre Bulliard gave it the scientific name Agaricus picaceus.
The Magpie Inkcap was known by the name that Bulliard gave it until 2001 when, as a result of molecular (DNA) analysis by Redhead, Vilgalys & Moncalvo, the large Coprinus genus was shown to contain groups of fungi with only distant relationships to one another, and the earlier Coprinus group was dismantled with the Magpie Inkcap being moved into the genus Coprinopsis within the family Psathyrellaceae. Coprinus comatus, the Shaggy Inkcap (with which the Magpie Inkcap is sometimes confused) plus three other rare fungi are all that now remains of the formerly large Coprinus genus; however, many field guides and websites are yet to be updated in this respect.
The generic name Coprinopsis indicates that mushrooms in this genus are similar in appearance to those in the genus Coprinus, which means 'living on dung' - that's true of quite a few of the inkcaps but not particularly apt for this and several other species.
The specific epithet picacea comes from the Latin scientific name for the Eurasian Magpie, Pica pica.
Magpies - the birds, that is - are considered by some people to be bad omens; certainly, their habit of stealing bird's eggs and young birds from the nest does little to endear them to lovers of songbirds. An old nursery rhyme about magpies goes: One for sorrow; Two for joy; Three for a girl; Four for a boy, etc.
There are several other versions, with variations on lines three onwards, but they all retain the One for sorrow; Two for joy opening lines. Magpies pair for life, and so seeing just one of these birds could mean that its mate has died - one for sorrow!
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